A retired judge toured the spot where South African police killed 34 striking miners in August as he opened a judicial inquiry into the incident. Street Law Director Prof Steve Naidoo is part of the forensic investigation.
The hearing is being heard in the platinum belt city of Rustenburg, 120km northwest of Johannesburg, the town closest to the Lonmin-owned Marikana mine.
Ian Farlam has four months to uncover the events surrounding the 16 August “Marikana massacre”.
The incident sparked intense criticism not only of the police but also of mining bosses, unions, the ruling African National Congress and President Jacob Zuma.
The names of the 34 dead, most of them from the poor Eastern Cape province, were read out at the start of the inquiry before lawyers for the police, victims’ families and 270 miners arrested after the shootings locked horns over procedure.
The commission and its findings could be politically damaging to Mr Zuma and the ANC, especially if security forces are found to have been as trigger-happy and ruthless as their apartheid predecessors.
However, the inquiry’s four-month timetable means its final findings will come after an internal ANC leadership election in mid-December.
Mr Zuma is expected to be re-elected head of the ANC in the vote – teeing him up to win a second five-year term as South African president in 2014 – although he may face a serious challenge from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
As well as probing the 16 August shootings, the Marikana commission has a broader remit to look into labour relations, pay and accommodation in South Africa’s mines – issues seen as behind the wildcat strike that preceded the killings.